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September 10, 2009

As the UK recovery starts, key industry players give their views

Headlines across the UK national press yesterday were heralding the end of the recession, following reports from leading economists, who said that the downturn had officially ended in May, with the economy showing positive growth since.

Although this is very good news for every business sector, key players in the events industry are recommending caution.

As bad as it gets
“The last two quarters were the worst for more than 10 years, but hopefully that’s as bad as it will get, as long as we can avoid a double bounce and the recovery can kick on from here,” said Duncan Reid, exhibition director of Event UK, which takes place later this month.

“There’s certainly more optimism around in the industry, particularly from venues and hotels, for the final quarter of this year and the first quarter of 2010. But budgets are likely to remain tight and caution will still prevail.”

Hard times still to come
Events industry association Eventia’s chief executive Izania Downie explained that, although the economy is starting to grow again, it will be some time before the benefits filter through to the sector.

“From what I can see, although the phones have started ringing again, the hard times are far from over,” she said. “Events are usually further down the chain to feel the effects when things start getting better, and the general mood out there is still cautious.

“You just have to look at the numbers of agencies going under in the past few weeks to realise that we are still feeling the effects of the recession. So if it is starting to get better in the broader economy, that’s good news, but it will still be some time before we see any real benefits in the events industry.”

Proving value
Although suggesting it was a little to early to hail the end of the recession, Joss Croft, head of business visits and events for VisitBritain, did stress that there were steps the events industry could take to help speed through the benefits of any upturn.

"Personally I believe that it is still too soon to say the recession is over,” he said. “Nonetheless, the increase in trade that the economists are predicting will be beneficial for the meetings and events industry as people recognise the increasing requirement to meet and do business.

“With Britain still offering good value because of the economic conditions and a relatively weak pound, and with the light that increasingly shines on Britain as we move towards 2012, now is the time for our industry to deliver world class service and added value.”

Croft was keen to point to Keep Britain Talking, which takes place later this month, as a key initiative to encourage the industry to buy British and recognise the value of meetings.

“We hope this will also help raise the profile of the benefits of working with partners face-to-face to drive trade,” he added.

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